How To Be Better At Handheld Filming | 7 Ways To Become A Better At It

Updated on September 4, 2021

You may have an awesome camera, but unless you know how to shoot it properly the footage will come out shaky and unusable. Handheld filmmaking is a tricky business! You might think you look like Spielberg directing his next Oscar winner, but if your wrists start shaking or your hand starts jittering then all of those hours spent editing footage down into something usable could be wasted time. Following these tips will make sure that you're doing everything possible to get those awesome shots without losing any footage due to shaky hands.

Steady arm, wrist & hand position. I prefer shooting with my elbows bent at 90 degrees or lower. This allows me to use my body as leverage for my arm. If you are trying to get a moving subject while keeping your camera still, move quickly and try to get the shot before you have time to find your balance again.

Improve camera grip. To me, this means that you can hold the camera in an orientation where it is stable and steady. Steady camera grip requires both good hand/wrist position (which I already explained) as well as relaxed muscles. Use a loose, gentle grip on the camera to keep your muscles from getting tense. You can also get accessories that could improve your grip.

Use the zoom sparingly if at all. Zooms are shaky and they don't look good on a handheld shot. If you use your fingers to move the lens forward or backward, these jitters will be seen in your final edit, and they will definitely not look professional. Instead of that, I recommend cropping footage if you are able to film above Full HD resolution, for example, 4k. You can easily zoom in or zoom out in a post by zooming from 4K to 2K, sometimes you can zoom only 5-10% and it will already make your static shot way more lively. This will allow you to have a stable and constant zoom while maintaining the quality of the footage. If you have to, use a zoom handle if available. In this case, extra movement will be less noticeable.

Shoot with a shorter lens. The longer the focal length of the lens the harder it is to keep stable. Obviously, if you're shooting on a longer lens, the camera moves more with each step, while wide-angle lenses will look stable enough. Of course, you should know that by shooting with a wide lens you should pay attention to the corners because they tend to wobble more than the center of the lens. You should also keep in mind, some prime lenses have no stabilization, while telephoto lenses almost always include optical image stabilization. In that case, it may be worth considering telephoto for handheld video shooting. 

Add additional weight. Picking up some additional weight to your camera may help you to reduce camera shake. You can achieve a heavier weight by using bigger lenses, adding a battery grip or camera cage. By adding a camera cage you can attach additional accessories such as an external monitor or power bank, which can be a very convenient and comfortable way to get professional quality footage.

Bend your knees. You might be able to make better videos if you move with your knees bent. You'll notice that when people are filming the video, they often have their legs bent and they're on one knee with a foot in front of them for stability. This is because it's much more difficult holding something up straight without using both hands than just having one hand free like while walking or standing normally. 

Practice movement. Learn how to "sweep" or move your arm with the camera around and shoot in all directions whilst remaining steady. The idea is to create a smooth motion, without any jerking in the video. Of course, this will require practice! Personally, I had two gimbals, and sold them, because I found handheld filmmaking more flexible and natural. I just had to take time and learn to shoot without additional stabilization equipment.

A lot of people are passionate about handheld filming and have found it to be one of the most rewarding aspects of their filmmaking. The key to mastering this art form lies in the way you hold your arms, wrists, legs, and hands position. Other factors like lens length and weight of equipment also play into getting steady shots. If you want to read more about the type of gear I personally use for my travel videos, you can find an article about that here. Did we miss any essential points? We want to hear what other ways readers have found for shooting great handheld videos! Share them down below by commenting on our blog post.

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